inspiration

The Power of Now: Or Why Maybe This Is the Summer to Start that Homeschool Co-Op

The Power of Now: Or Why Maybe This Is the Summer to Start that Homeschool Co-Op

[We are so happy to introduce you to the lovely Maggie Martin, who officially joins the HSL blogging team with this post! —Amy]

This time last year, my family was part of a great co-op. It was well-established, the enrichment classes were wonderful, and there were countless social opportunities for the kids. There was a prom, a graduation, a yearbook, a variety of clubs, and field trips.

I knew that we couldn't stay.

What?

The thing is that we lived an hour away. Devoting two hours of driving to and from classes one day a week was (almost) okay, but driving two hours so that my kids could do scouts or playdates with kids from their classes just wasn't practical. Every week I'd watch other families' kids falling deeper into real, lasting friendships, and it was a constant reminder that those friendships were the one thing that I wasn't providing my children in our homeschool experience.

I knew that a co-op move would have to happen to give my kids those deep-rooted childhood friendships, but moving in that direction seemed hopeless. I'd pored over the list of local co-ops for options that would be a good fit for secular members only to find a disappointing lack thereof. I'd even gotten a babysitter to attend an interest meeting for a new co-op forming at a local church in hopes that somehow that might work out for us. It didn't. Maybe one day I'd be brave enough to start a co-op in my little town that would be friendly to secular homeschoolers, but of course that time wasn't then. I was in the middle of building a new house, doing much of the work with my own two hands when I wasn't forging my way through lessons with my six-year-old twins.

Then when the 2016 summer issue of home/school/life downloaded its way into my life, I stumbled upon this highlighted passage from Gretchen Rubin's book Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives:

I had to realize that there would always be excuses not to do the thing that is hard, probably really good excuses.

"The desire to start something at the "right" time is usually just a justification for delay. In almost every case, the best time to start is now."

Those words crawled into my system and wouldn't stop swirling around my brain until I'd metabolized them.

I had to realize that there would always be excuses not to do the thing that is hard, probably really good excuses. And I had to realize that that saying about "The days are long, but the years are short," is no joke. It already felt like I'd put my babies down for naps only to turn around and find them starting the first grade. By the next time I turned around, those first graders would be perfecting their college admissions essays, and my chance to construct the homeschool experience I'd dreamed of for them would be gone forever.

So I decided to start that co-op. I made a To Do list that was about a mile long, and tackled every item one by one when I could steal a few minutes to do so. I communicated with the homeschool acquaintances I'd made in our community and shared my vision, I turned to our gem of a library when finding a meeting space was turning into a deal-breaker, and, most importantly, I focused on my devotion to my kids when the job seemed overwhelming.

By the end of the summer, I had accomplished what had before seemed impossible, and a year later, I'm boundlessly grateful that Gretchen Rubin's words found me in that home/school/life issue just when I needed them. The friendships my children have made this year are all the reward I need for the hard work I invested in our co-op's startup.

There will always, always be a reason not to do what is unfamiliar. Make those positive changes anyway. Graduation day will be here sooner than we wish.


52 Weeks of Happier Homeschooling Week 18: Talk to a New Homeschool Mom

52 Weeks of Happier Homeschooling Week 18: Talk to a New Homeschool Mom

We often think the best mentors are the people who’ve logged years of practical experiences—and those park day moms who’ve successfully sent their kids off to college are definitely founts of knowledge. But when it comes to getting fired up about homeschooling again, you might find more inspiration from the folks who haven’t been there and done that.

Researchers studying mathematical mentors have found that people in the first third of their careers—relative newbies—are the most successful mentors. (The study looked at how many of an adviser’s mentored students went on to train their own mentees. The younger the original mentors, the more mentees their protégés would go on to have.) This may be partly because the newer you are to a particular project, the more willing you are to try out new ideas—because you’re still figuring out how things work, you’re more open to possibilities of failure and collaboration than you are once you’ve found a steady rhythm. There are benefits to chatting with homeschoolers on both sides of the experience curve, but when you’re looking for an enthusiasm charge, seek out new moms who are still in their first or second year of homeschooling. Their enthusiasm can be catching, their new ideas may inspire you, and when you weigh in with your own experiences, you may find yourself rediscovering some of the reasons you love homeschooling.

Your challenge this week: Make a connection with a newer homeschooler. It doesn’t have to require any hoop-jumping: Respond to a question on your homeschool group’s email chain, or introduce yourself to that mom with the kindergartener at park day. 


June Pep Talk

home|school|life magazine's Monday Pep Talk has lots of fun ideas for planning your homeschool week.

We’re taking a break from our weekly pep talks this summer, so for June and July, we’re hooking you up with an over-stuffed monthly pep talk instead.

 

10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH

Set up your telescope on June 3 to see Saturn at its brightest—with a decent telescope, you should be able to see some of the planet’s rings and moons.

June is Camping Month, so pitch a tent in your backyard for an outdoor sleepover. Make s’mores on the grill, put on a flashlight shadow puppet play, and do a little star-gazing. 

Take advantage of the sunshine and turn your nature walk into art by making sun prints.

Make sponge balls and have a backyard water battle.

Celebrate Maurice Sendak’s birthday on June 10 by watching Where the Wild Things Are and reading your favorite Sendak books. (I vote for the creepy, Labyrinth-ish Outside Over There.

Turn making lemonade into a fun science project.

Celebrate Drive-In Movie Day (June 6) by seeing a movie at a drive-in theater near you.

The Magna Carta was signed on June 15, 1215. Learn more about why this 13th century document still matters today by watching this video lecture from the James Otis Video Lecture collection.

I think we all know the best way to celebrate World Juggling Day (June 18). This video is a great tutorial for newbie jugglers.

To mark Log Cabin Day (on June 26), watch the documentary Alone in the Wilderness, a really fascinating account of a man who left the plugged-in world for the wilderness, building a log cabin and living off the land.

 

10 IDEAS FOR THIS Month’S DINNERS

When you want to grill but are feeling a little burned out by the same-old dishes, try this linguine with grilled clams and bacon. It’s unexpected and delicious.

If you bought more eggplant than you know what to do with, serve these falafel-stuffed eggplants with tahini sauce and tomato relish.

When the thought of cooking is just too much but everybody is insisting on eating dinner anyway, this chicken and peaches platter requires assembly only.

Mix and match whatever’s in your fridge to make this leftover salads Nicoise.

Anything you serve for dinner will taste better with this arugula, potato, and green bean salad.

This tomato chèvre tart is delicious just out of the oven, but I’ve also been known to eat a cold slice right out of the fridge for breakfast.

If it’s sunny, cook these Thai peanut chicken thighs on the grill; if it’s not, pop them in the oven instead.

Feeling adventurous?  This chilled crab and shrimp ramen salad is a staple on restaurant menus all summer long in Japan.

This summer minestrone is easy to adapt—and a delicious way to stretch those first tiny garden harvests.

Also a great way to use that late spring produce: spring vegetable bibimbap.

 

FOUR GREAT READALOUDS

I feel like book series and summer just go together, so for this list, I’m highlighting the first books in series I think make great readalouds—whether you stop after book one or keep going until the end.

Redwall (Redwall, Book 1)
By Brian Jacques
The Borrowers
By Mary Norton

Brian Jacques’ birthday is June 15, and Redwall makes the perfect summer series readaloud: epic adventure, talking animals, and plenty of irresistible characters.

Arietty, Pod, and Homily are just trying to live their lives in a way-too-big-for-them world in The Borrowers. I love the way this book blends matter-of-fact details (like peeling potatoes!) into a fantastic world.

You’ll be captivated by the adventures of Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran and his friends (an enchantress, a bard, a dwarf, and a, um, Gurgi) in The Book of Three, the first book in Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain.

Cara discovers a magical world full of dragons, dwarves, nightmares, and more when she heads Into the Land of the Unicorns.

 

ONE THOUGHT TO PONDER

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.
— John Lubbock

 

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (BECAUSE SOMETIMES YOU NEED SOMETHING STRONGER THAN INSPIRATION)

bluenerry lavender vodka spritzer


Why Boredom Is an Important Part of Learning

why boredom is an important part of learning

I read a post today suggesting parents create a “bored jar,” filled with chips with both “fun” activities and chores for any child who dares to complain about boredom. “At our house, boredom is not allowed” begins the first sentence, and I found myself thinking how incredibly sad and limiting a view that is.

Boredom tends to get a really bad rap, and it inspires a lot of worry in parents. In our productivity obsessed culture, where the common view is that learning is only happening when it’s easily seen and measured, and the only useful activity is one that looks busy, boredom is seen as something that should be corrected quickly by the nearest adult.

The fear and distrust of boredom is unwarranted.

I believe how someone experiences boredom comes down in large part to personality. My sister and I have the same parents and grew up in the same household, yet while she has always been able to entertain herself for hours at a time—playing and pretending as a child and lost in thought as an adult—I’ve always been more likely to pace the hallways, restless, complaining about boredom.

While persistent, hard to fix boredom—the kind that weighs you down and impacts your life in a negative way—can definitely be a sign that something is wrong (frustration with the way your life is going, feeling a lack of control or a lack of direction, etc.), it is just one of many human emotions, and it is part of the learning process. It is not something to be feared or corrected.

It’s through boredom, that restless frustration of having nothing immediately obvious to do, that I’ve ended up breaking routine and doing something I wouldn’t have otherwise done. Picking up my neglected guitar to try and learn a new song; pulling out a book from my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but just haven’t gotten to; opening up a biology course on Khan Academy; sitting down to do some journalling; thinking about the next post or article I want to write, and starting to construct it in my head…

“Boredom is just the time and space between ideas… And sometimes the wellspring of genius,” said Janet Lansbury, and though for most of us, “genius” might feel like too much to aspire to, I do know that boredom has always lead to a lot of creativity and exploration in my life. Boredom acts as a gateway, as the beginning of something new or different, or the introduction (or reintroduction) to a new hobby or passion, something that will go on to be an important part of our days.

Or not. As important as the productivity that boredom can lead to, equally important is simply the space of boredom itself. The time for us to get past the initial restlessness or discomfort of not being busy, not doing, and settle into reflection, observation, stillness. We need the time to process and digest our learning, our experiences, and sometimes boredom can be a part of that.

When attempts are made to outlaw boredom, not only are children being told that experiencing that emotion is “bad,” they are also being discouraged from sharing what they’re feeling with the adults around them, lest they be chided for their idleness and assigned chores or busywork, anything to avoid a dreaded lack of productivity.

One of the things I value in my upbringing is the freedom I had to work through boredom. My mother often made suggestions and helped me figure out something to do. It’s not that I was left on my own to deal with it. But it wasn’t treated as something horrible, even sinful: boredom was just accepted as part of life. As life learners, my family was able to relax, let things unfold, and not worry so much that every moment should be devoted to education, or productivity, or doing “something useful.” I could be bored sometimes. And I could figure out what to do with that boredom.

For any creativity to occur in my life, I need boredom. It’s part of my process. I might complain melodramatically, flop on the couch, feel frustrated… But then I’ll get an idea, or a spark of inspiration, or settle on a course of action, and the next thing I know, I’m contentedly making something in the kitchen, or writing with deep concentration, or lost in thought…

Making friends with boredom has enriched my life. I think everyone, parents and children, could benefit from learning to embrace boredom and see where it leads them!